Automatic visual-spatial perspective taking in alcohol-dependence: a study with happy emotional faces

Cox, Sharon, Maurage, Pierre, O'Connor, Richard, Chandler, Chris and Riggs, Kevin J. (2018) Automatic visual-spatial perspective taking in alcohol-dependence: a study with happy emotional faces. Drug and alcohol dependence, 190. pp. 42-45. ISSN 1879-0046


Understanding the world from another's perspective is an important and potentially automatic human process which is crucial for efficient social interactions. However, while deficits have repeatedly been described for various interpersonal abilities in alcohol-dependence (AD), only one previous study has investigated perspective taking in this pathology. The current study aimed to explore further how AD affects visual-spatial perspective taking (VSPT) by examining the effect of positive emotional stimuli on VSPT in both an AD and non-AD sample. Reaction times (RT) for simple spatial judgments were measured. Participants made these judgments from their perspective, but judgments were either congruent or incongruent with the perspective of another agent. The emotion conveyed by that agent (happy or neutral) was manipulated across trials. Compared to baseline, both AD and non-AD groups displayed delayed RTs for spatial judgments when these were incongruent with the perspective of a happy agent (the expected VSPT RT cost, indicating automatic VSPT). The AD, but not the non-AD group, further displayed a VSPT RT cost when the agent expressed a neutral emotion. There was no evidence that AD compromised automatic VSPT. However, as in previous research, AD was associated with differences in the processing of emotional stimuli. Future research should explore which 'real-world' settings are likely to trigger social confusion and misunderstanding.

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